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What to Bring (a new, considerably reduced list as of summer 2017)

DSC_0127Megan carefully cuts a kingpost with her Stihl 261 preparatory to installing ridgelog, July, 2011.

Revised August 5, 2017. Essential tools are in red print. This list has been substantially shortened and simplified.

Please call 218.365.2126 or email courses@schooloflogbuilding.com if you have questions or problems – or if you have any difficulty contacting vendors. 

Special note: Since some of these tools have only limited sources, it is not recommended that students cast a wide net online for tools looking for just the best price. This is sometimes a recipe for bringing the incorrect materials.

Common errors are bringing the wrong sander-backer and chainsaw chain – all of which can result in wasted time on the course securing the correct items. If you’re unsure about anything, Ron is available to offer suggestions or answer questions anytime by phone or email.

All of the below vendors have excellent service and tools. But, especially if you are in a hurry and a course you want to take is looming, Kingsbridge Supply in Minnesota might be a good bet for quick response for most of what you require. They also have a selection of chainsaw-proof boots and all of the fine tools made by Timber Tools in Ontario, including the new lateral groove “shovel gouge.”


  Tamarack Log Building Tools 763.783.9773,  no website but can get print catalog by phoning & regular mail.
   Schroeder Log Home Supply 800.359.6614, www.loghelp.com
   Log Home Store 800.827.1688, www.loghomestore.com
   Timber Tools/Buffalo Forge 800.350.8176, the best drawknife and some fine chisels and slicks – and a shovel gouge for carving lateral grooves. www.timbertools.com.

Kingsbridge Supply. http://www.kingsbridgesupply.com. General log building and logging tools. The sole source for handlebar gouges.

Magard Tools, Prince George, BC  250.962.9057. Full line of log and timber frame tools, including Chambers scribers and old Mackie scribers.www.logbuildingtools.ca/


Log Building Tools    ( Absolutely necessary items are indicated in red). 

  1. Wood chisel. Two Cherries brand 20 mm with #3 curve. 
  2. Mortise or framing chisel. 1, 1 1/4,  or 2 inch.
  3.   *Make your own mallet on the course from white birch.
  4. Drawknife. The best available is the 9″ drawknife from Timber Tools/Buffalo Forge at $197. 1.800.350.8176 or www.timbertools.com, or at Kingsbridge Supply. Please do not bring “Dixie” or “Peavey” drawknives to the course, but there are many other kinds that could serve you well. And although Dixie and Peavey make useless drawknives, their loghooks, peaveys and canthooks are very high quality.  We also have some extra drawknives to use if you don’t purchase one.
  5. Log cleats, 2 sets or pairs – one pair consists of two cleats on a 30″ rope. 
  6. Peavey or Canthook (either will do). “Peavey” brand is superior. 4 or 5 foot handles are good. You will eventually have both for your own projects.
  7. Log scriber.   9-inch Ely scriber from Kingsbridge or Tamarack is one of the best available, in our opinion.  Other brands, including the Robert Chambers scriber and the Veritas, are also excellent.
  8. Indelible pencils. 1 dozen, and 6 lumber crayons.  Do not bring Veritas red indelibles!! They are not useful for anything. Bring ones with black or blue lead.
  9. Axe. Scandinavian Forest axe by Gransfors-Bruks.  if you want the World’s best axe . Other small axes may do, but please do not bring a hatchet for log work – for safety’s sake. 
  10. Measuring tape.  25-50 foot. Also small pocket tape (e.g., 10′, 12′) with both metric & English (if possible) 
  11. Flat Mill Bastard File and flat sharpening stone
  12. Chalkline with black chalk, and a hank (roll) of mason’s line with line level. 
  13. Any empty spray bottle (under your sink) for enhancing scribe pencil lines. 
  14. Small torpedo level. H   A regular 24″ level is also good. An Empire 24″ level (#450-24 Speed Level) with graduations in English and metric and one flat (blade) edge is the best ever for truss building and other uses. Not made anymore but occasionally available on Amazon & EBay for around $20.
  15. 4-5 inch angle-grinder with separate rubber/plastic sanding backer and #24 or #36 grit discs. Be certain that the rubber or plastic backer fits your machine. The backer never comes in the box with the machine; it is always bought separately. Try putting it on at the store. Some students come with an incorrect backer, in which case the sander is not useful. The best and safest angle-grinder I’ve found is a Paddle-Switch Makita, Model 955-7PB
  16. Heavy 100 foot extension cord – 12 gauge is best (14 is ok).  
  1. Chainsaw and accompanying tools:  scrench (screwdriver-wrench combo), files, 2 old toothbrushes for cleaning. Saw should have 16 or 18″ bar with.325 pitch. Chain must be chipper or semi-chisel with rounded profile and should be an official green-linked safety chain, which Stihl terms “guard-link semi-chisel green chain.” Saw must also have the mechanical chainbrake. Unless you are flying, bring 2 or more gallons of ethanol-free (known as “unoxygenated” in Minnesota), 91 octane gas, mixing oil for 2 1/2 gallons of gas, 1 gallon bar oil, and your owners’ manual. If you are flying, we can loan you a fuel can while you are here and you can fill it during a grocery run to town.
  2. Stihl, Jonsereds, and Husqvarna, brands are recommended. Arborist saws are neither useful nor allowed for log construction. For safety reasons, your saw should be no more than 15 years old, i.e., post 2000.  Possibly thebest saw for this course and your future log building – in terms of reliability, safety, noise, vibration reduction, parts/service availability, general usefulness and long life – is the Stihl MS261 MC which is a medium sized professional-level saw. The Husqvarna 550XP is also a good saw. If you have access to a spare qualifying saw in case you have problems, by all means bring it along.  Purchase your saw from a bona fide chainsaw dealer in your home area (or locally at Joe’s Marine in Ely 218.365.6264). If you contact them in advance with your payment information. Ron can fetch it for you prior to the course).  For safety, noise, and reliability reasons, McCulloch, Homelite, Remington, Craftsman, and Poulan are not allowed at the school.
  3. Very, very important. Please make it a point to bring the correct saw chain. About 25 percent of students bring the wrong chain and often have to waste a good part of a class day going to town seeking the specified chain. If you or your saw dealer are confused, please have them phone me for clarification. The chain specs for the Stihl ms261 are: Stihl 23RM3 if you have .050 bar slot gauge – Rapid-Micro Safety chain for .325 pitch. If you have .063 bar slot width, you need 26RM3 Rapid-Micro Safety chain. 

Extra Log Building Tools, strictly optional like the non-red ones above, but recommended if you are arriving by motor vehicle, have room, and can afford them. Otherwise, you’ll likely acquire them in the future when you set to work on your log projects, e.g. eventually you will get both a peavey and canthook for your own building.

  1. Tool box or pail with toolbucket attachment. 
  2. Timber carrier  (strongly recommended) Peavey brand is best.
  3. Claw hammer 
  4. Framing square 
  5. Handlebar gouge  – a big favorite & only one current source, Kingsbridge, 952.913.3762. $125. plus MN sales tax. Comes with a nice sheath.
  6. Curved adz with 18 inch handle.  To be found at Kingsbridge Log Building Tools and Tamarack Tools.
  7. Buffalo Forge Shovel Gouge, for perfecting lateral grooves on under-side of logs. New, and you’ll probably get one eventually.
  8. Picaroon (hookaroon)

Safety Apparel ( all required)

  1. Hardhat preferably with eye and ear protection.  Warm liner for October or April courses.
  2. Leather gloves for all tool use and sharpening. Four pairs. The best we’ve found are at Menards Inc. (Eau Claire, WI & regionally, sold only in fall and winter, SKU# 660-1322 – about $6 a pair and even washable. Year-around gloves! Also get a pair of heavy rubber-coated canvas gloves for wet weather and for applying mildewcide to logs. Unfortunately, I believe the Menards gloves are only sold in person at one of their stores, not by mail.
  3. First aid kit.
  4. Safety glasses or the face screen above. H. Disposable dust masks. 
  5. Chainsaw-protective chaps or safety pants.  
  6. Chainsaw-protective steel-toed Kevlar-lined boots. Steel-toes barely protect 1/6 of the foot from an axe or chainsaw, so the boots must be chainsaw-resistant and Kevlar-lined as well as having a steel-toe. Husqvarna or Labonville are recommended, either rubber or leather. Labonville (www.Labonville.com) has extremely comfortable US made logging boots known as BOOTLAB9 KEVLAR SAFETY BOX TOE. Ser. no. is 24127 or 24128 (high or low heel). Husqvarna rubber or leather Kevlar-lined boots from a dealer are also acceptable. Ben Meadows Co. 800.241.6401 has the rubber type for around $100. The Log Home Store also has good rubber protective boots for $90+ Do not bring calked (spiked) boots to the course.
  7. Chainsaw-protective shirt. Special item developed in the 1990s by Ron in collaboration with Swedish Gransfors-Bruks Co. to provide arm, shoulder, and frontal trunk protection specifically for Great Lakes School courses. Washable blue denim. Available only at  Tamarack, Log Home Store, or Kingsbridge. Caution: do not buy Stihl’s orange shirt. It is not protective of anything except shoulders. After making sure it fits, wash your Gransfors-Bruks denim chainsaw shirt twice (for extra comfort) prior to the course.
  8. Kneepads. Any kind. Not required but easy on the knees for kneeling on scaffold or ground.

Reminder: shorts, leggings, or athletic/sweat pants are prohibited on all log building and stonework courses.

Suggested Textbooks for the Course  – nine works that should eventually be found in a serious log-builder’s library.

Robert Chambers, Log Construction Manual (“revised” 2016 edition only)
Vic Janzen, Your Log House, 4th edition,
Allan Mackie, The Owner-Built Log House,
Dan Milne, Handbook of Canadian Log Building,
Allan Mackie, Notches of All Kinds, Log Span Tables, Log House Plans
Tom Walker’s, Building the Alaska Log Home. (Note: Mackie’s “Notches” is out of print and hard to locate, but there seem to be many in existence.)

And one more to purchase: the International Log Builders Association’s
Effective Practices and Methods for Handcrafted Log Building
, (amply illustrated in color, 71 pages).  The ILBA website: www.logassociation.org will show you how to purchase it through Amazon for less than $30. We will be referencing this document repeatedly during the courses. Ron was on the committee of builders who debated the issues and wrote this several years ago.

Required Personal Gear (strongly suggested items)

  1. Raincoat or rainsuit.  Long raincoats or ponchos are unsafe.
  2. Old clothes. Bring plenty. Insulated coveralls are good for early spring or late fall. Denim jeans or Carhartt double-knee pants are good for any seasons. Long underwear is in fashion here Sept. to May. Athletic/sweat- pants, leggings, sweatpants, tights or shorts are not allowed on the worksite.
  3. Leather gloves must be worn when using all tools except the scriber. Bring four pair of insulated work gloves for cold-weather courses. A pair of rubberized work gloves are required for all log and stone courses.
  4. Soap, towels (extra for sauna), toothbrush.
  5. One headlamp (that will fit over cap or hardhat) and two flashlights, supply of batteries.
  6. Strike-on-box matches. Farmer matches (independently struck on any surface) are not allowed for safety reasons.
  7. Box of large plastic bags for garbage.
  8. Scrub pads (4-5) and paper towel rolls (8) for drying dishes.
  9. Food. Easy-to-prepare items are best. Nothing for which a regular oven is needed, since there aren’t any. Microwaves are provided. Outdoor barbecues are for evening use only. Bring charcoal if you plan to use.
  10. Dishware utensils, and pots & pans are furnished if you are lodging in the cabins. Paper plates, bowls and cups are still handy, however.  If you are tenting, bring your own cookware and dishware. In any case, a good, durable, insulated coffee cup is handy. The cabin cups are not for using out on the worksite.
  11. Toilet paper. 4 rolls.
  12. Alarm clock. Windup or battery. Lectures are scheduled for specific times, so don’t leave your watch at home.
  13. Pocket knife for sharpening pencils.
  14. Notebooks and pens. Carry them with you all of the time. Good notes, sketches and photos will be invaluable later when you begin your log buildings.
  15. Camera with extra cards & battery charger. Throwaway cameras work well also. 
  16. Sleeping bag, blankets (bring extras), pillow. Mattresses are provided on the beds.
  17. Supplementary cooler for extra beverages. Refrigerators are small and intended mainly for food, juice & milk. Ice and groceries are available in Ely and Two Harbors.
  18. Do not bring any type of space heater – electric or propane. Simply not allowed on the premises!

Supplementary Information

  1. There are no tools or safety gear for sale at the school or in nearby towns. If it is more convenient for you to ship items to and from the school, or have a tool source ship directly to the school before the course, that’s ok. However,UPS and FedEX are the only carriers that come here daily and with any degree of promptness. Please do not use US Post Office for any parcels coming here before, during, or after the course. Post Office cannot deliver packages in this remote location, but other carriers can and will. Post Office does deliver regular mail, however.
  2. Note that there is no landline telephone service here for student use. If you wish to stay in touch, bring your cellular phone and charger. All cabins have electricity.  AT&T is the most reliable cellular carrier.  You may, of course, leave the school number and email with relatives, so that, in case of emergency, they will be able to leave a message. There is wi-fi up to 30 available in one location at the school.
  3. If you have difficulty with your chainsaw dealer in regard to correct chain, pitch and files, have them call Ron for clarification. A tiny minority of dealers (like some loggers) have a contrarian attitude about safety stuff, and some aren’t aware of the special cutting needs of log builders. For safety and easier learning, it is extremely important to have the correct kind of chain, as outlined in the tool list.
  4. Take another look at the tool and safety gear lists. All red-marked tools in the first list and all of the safety gear are required of nearly everyone, as are most of the personal items. Things that are best not shared with a partner are scriber, axe, all safety gear, drawknife, and the Two-Cherries chisel. Sharing a saw with a partner works out sometimes. That, of course, is up to you. Neither chainsaw nor a sander-grinder can be used by anyone under the age of 18.
  5. The Camp Rules, which you have received a copy of, spells out things that are not allowed here, such as drinking any alcohol before or during working hours, on field trips, or while driving or riding in a vehicle anywhere. And the whole place and field-trip sites are smoke-free, except within your vehicle in the parking lot. Be sure to check this information over, along with the Safety Rules for the Worksite. Firearms of any sort are prohibited on the school property or in your vehicle. No “carry” or handgun possession permits of any kind or from any state are valid here.

Appendix – some of the tools on the lists above pictured according to their numbers

Required list:

1.  Two Cherries curved chisel     twocherrieschisel

2.  Mortise/framing chisel     framingchisel

3.  Drawknives: Gransfors-Bruks & Barr (or Timber Tools)   gransfors&barrdrawknife

4.  Log cleats          logcleats     log dogs     logdogs

5.  Canthook     canthook      Peavey

6.  Ely Scriber   elyscriber

8.  Gransfors-Bruks Scandinavian forest axe     gransforsforesteraxe

9.  Logger tape & carpenter’s tape     loggers'tape&tapemeasure

10. Curved stone/flat mill bastard file/flat stone curvedstonefileflatstone

11. Chalkline & chalk bottle   chalkline&chalk    Hank (roll) of dry line hankofdryline

13.  Empire 2′ level & small torpedo level       empire&torpedolevels

14.  4-5 inch sander-grinder     smallelectricsandergrinder

Optional tool list:

1. Tool pail       toolbucket

2. Timber carrier/lifting tongs   liftingtongs

4.  Framing square     framingsquare

5.  Handlebar gouge     handlebargouge

8.  Pickaroon/hookaroon        pickaroonhookeroon


Great Lakes School of Log Building 
1350 Snowshoe Trail,  Isabella, MN 55607
 218.365.2126
courses@schooloflogbuilding.com

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